'...except for that time that he stole $2 million.'

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Neary 350 letters were written to Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter seeking leniency for Vince Fumo. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

"He never deviates from what he considers to be his principled rationale."

-- the former top judge in the state of Pennsylvania, Stephen Zappala, writing about his friend, convicted felon Vince Fumo.

So here's the last word for now on Fumo -- the Inquirer and Philly.com are doing a great job posting many of the letters (here and here) written by Philadelphia power brokers on Fumo's behalf, and I would encourage everyone to take time to read them for a glimpse of The Way Things Work. Unintended irony abounds -- for example Zappala praises Fumo for "a constantly friendly ear regarding judicial pay raises". Yup, those same pay raises the caused a tar-and-feather mob (and I mean that in a good way) to run a number of Fumo's colleagues right out of Harrisburg. But I'm sure the judge hearing Fumo's case was impressed!

Yes, the letters compile some good deeds that Fumo did as a lawmaker and sometimes personally -- hey, no one ever said he wasn't a complex guy. But even people who do good works are expected to know right from wrong, and know the consequences of temptation. On the other hand, parts of the letters are over-the-the-top ridiculous -- former Mayor Wilson Goode Jr. praises Fumo as a "family man" when...well, it would have been just better to stick to his record as a lawmaker. His devotion was to his work, and to himself.

Speaking of tar-and-feather, I kind of thought that talk radio would be up-in-arms over Fumo's light sentence but apparently not, and in fact one of the pro-Fumo letters came from the Big Talker-1210's unofficial mascot, Joey Vento, so maybe that helps explain it. Too bad.

And one final thing, which is that Gov. Ed Rendell spoke today about his pro-Fumo letter. You have to love his style -- some public figures will say nothing, but Rendell instead says so many things that are so contradictory that they amount to nothing in the end. Basically, he said that Fumo's sentence wasn't too short except it was too short. Here are the two questions I'd like to see Rendell answer.

1) Have you ever -- after leaving the Philadelphia DA's office, of course -- written a letter or testified that what a corrupt public official did was so outrageous that he deserves to go to jail for a long time?

2) Have you ever gone out of your way to seek leniency for someone who was an average citizen -- i.e., someone who wasn't a politician, a rich donor, or a friend?